You are hereFrom the Pastoral Staff -—Deacon John

From the Pastoral Staff -—Deacon John

Updated 9/13/2018

Who do I say Jesus is? And who am I?

Jesus challenges his disciples and us today to an-swer two very personal questions - Who do I say Jesus is? And who am I? Our answers will deter-mine if we can faithfully carry our crosses during these difficult days.

In the musical Les Miserables, there is a powerful song entitled “Who Am I?” sung by Jean Valjean. He was formerly a very poor man who stole a loaf of bread for his family and was convicted to a torturous life in a work camp from which he escaped. While on the run he tries to redeem himself after a merciful priest gives him another chance at life instead of certain capture. After that act of kindness he decides to turn his life around while trying to con-ceal his former life. Valjean is confronted by a moral dilemma when given the chance to live a free life by allowing an innocent man the court believes to be Valjean to go to prison. He decides to reveal himself in court, thereby renewing police inspector Javert’s relentless pursuit of Valjean.

“Who am I? Can I conceal myself for evermore? Pretend I'm not the man I was before?...Must I lie? How can I ever face my fellow men? How can I ever face myself again? My soul belongs to God, I know I made that bargain long ago. He gave me hope, when hope was gone. He gave me strength to journey on. Who am I?..Two-four-six-O-one!”

This is a song of self-announcement, realization, and actualization. As a church, we are struggling with a deepening scandal in lead-ership - sinners who failed to responsibly act and authentically car-ry their crosses. As a church and personally, like Jean Valjean, we need to ask ourselves, do we continue to perpetuate the lies that hurt us, but saves others? Or do we reveal our true selves as God created us? In many ways we are all like “24601”. We have our in-dividual crosses to carry – maybe some self-imposed or perhaps some due to our circumstances. Our loving God does not make people suffer, but when we take our life’s difficulties and in faith unite them with God’s people around the common table, then it’s through the cross that Jesus suffers with us.

To be human means accepting that suffering is a part of our lives. Sometimes we can discover more about who we are during our most trying times. Accepting our cross and giving up our lives means that, at some point, we have to make peace with the un-deniable reality that pain, misfortune, illness, sadness, unfairness, and death are part of our lives. Like Jesus we can groan under the weight of our crosses and still come through better. Perhaps not today, but certainly some day when we celebrate our victory over the cross with Jesus. Or unlike Jesus, do we become bitter and filled with self-pity, whining, and ambivalent about our cross-es? We can choose to become bitter or better. How we choose answers the questions - Who do I say Jesus is? And who am I?

How well we deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and help others carry their crosses can be measured in four distinct ways. How I spend my money? With whom and where I spend my time, and where have I been? These make a statement about who we are and they do not lie. How we respond describes who we are.

One of the paradoxes of the gospel is that life comes from death. Not only at the moment we take our final breath, but every day we allow ourselves to let our own agendas, and wants, and needs die– so that we can give ourselves to others. When we don’t give of ourselves and instead complacently accept things the way they are, then people remain hungry, homeless, jobless and robbed of their dignity.

When you receive Christ in the Eucharist know and believe that the Christ who you receive is the strength that you need to help you carry your crosses while you echo these words
“My soul belongs to God, I know …He gave me hope, when hope was gone. He gave me strength to journey on.”

Deacon John